Where to Begin

As a Canadian business, you may be either thinking of reopening or starting to prepare to open. There are many mandatory, provincial and federal regulations you must follow to eliminate the risk of COVID-19 infections in your workplace. Some questions you may be asking:

  • What must we do to comply with regulations and keep employees safe?
  • How must we take action to make our workplace safe?
  • How must we prepare and educate our employees?
  • How must we keep our workplace and employees safe?

In this guide, we walk you through the answers to these questions with some of the steps you must take.


Disclaimer

You must review and comply with all local, provincial and federal legislation and recommendations with respect to COVID-19. This document provides guidance based on advice from public health authorities and medical experts. However, it is based on current knowledge of COVID-19 which is rapidly evolving, and is not intended to provide exhaustive answers to all questions or to confirm all published official recommendations. The measures presented encourage reflection. In addition, this guide will be updated regularly as new findings and recommendations become available.


Table of Contents



Risk Assessment

Assessing the risk of returning to work is the first point of consideration for most businesses. Please use this grid to carefully evaluate the guidelines issued by the Government of Canada.

KEY POINTS:

1. You must obtain, read and comply with your provincial government and worker safety regulations. They may also be industry-specific.

2. From a public health standpoint, at this time, the recommendation to work from home must be maintained for all who can, whenever they can.

3. Accommodations should be made for workers in demographic groups (e.g. age-related risk) or with particular medical conditions at greatest risk from COVID-19 infection.

For businesses that must reopen, the employer must identify the risks of transmission of COVID-19 in the workplace. If the risks of contamination can’t be eliminated, steps must be taken to reduce and control them. To do so, an evaluation of the workplace and tasks during which workers may be exposed to the virus must be closely assessed.

In this guide, we provide suggestions to prepare your workplace and employees.

 



Important Principles

The main principles to minimize the risk of transmission are:

  • Work from home whenever possible
  • The exclusion of symptomatic or potentially-infectious people from the workplace 
  • Physical and other means of distancing (e.g. temporally through schedules, staggered entry and exit times)
  • Hand washing
  • Proper respiratory etiquette
  • Maintaining hygiene measures for tools, equipment and surfaces that are frequently used.


KEY POINT: Employers must follow provincial instructions on worker safety in their respective industry, as well as Public Health and Safety. 

AB:
- Alberta’s Relaunch Strategy  
- Temporary workplace rule changes
- WCB-Alberta (Workers’Compensation Board-Alberta)
- Alberta Biz Connect

BC:
- BC’s Restart Plan 
- WorkSafe BC: COVID-19 and returning to safe operation

MB:
- Restoring Safe Services Together: Manitoba’s Phased Approach 
- SafeWork Manitoba: Industry-specific COVID-19 Information
- WCB-Manitoba (Workers’Compensation Board of Manitoba): How the WCB is Responding to COVID-19

NB:
- New Brunswick’s recovery plan to COVID-19  
-  WorkSafe Travail sécuritaire

NL:
- Information sheets for businesses and workplaces
- Alert Level System
- Refer to this page to see the current level: https://www.gov.nl.ca/covid-19/

NS:
- Working during COVID-19
- Closures, cancellations and service changes
- COVID-19: what it means for Nova Scotians
- WorkSafe. For Life. Workers’ compensation board of Nova Scotia: COVID-19

NWT: 
- Program and service availability during COVID-19
- WSCC (Workers’Safety & Compensation Commission: Safe at Work and WSCC Service Updates

NU: WSCC (Workers’Safety & Compensation Commission: Safe at Work and WSCC Service Updates

ON: 
- Resources to prevent COVID-19 in the workplace
- WSIB Ontario (Workplace Safety and Insurance Board)

- Reopening Ontario after COVID-19 

PEI: 
- WCB (Workers Compensation Board of PEI: COVID-19
- Renew PEI Together 

QC:
- Gradual resumption of activities under the COVID-19-related pause 
- Quebec is going back to work safely

SK: - WorkSafe Saskatchewan


WCB SK (Saskatchewan Workers’Compensation Board):

- COVID-19 response for workers
- COVID-19 response for employers
- COVID-19 response for care providers

YT:

- Closures, cancellations, facility access and services
-
Yukon WCB (Yukon Workers’Compensation Health and Safety Board): COVID-19 worker and employer resources

 


Keep your workplace safe.

Discover Dialogue's
Return to Work checklist today.

Download the checklist

Return to work checklist - COVID-19


 

Prioritizing Work From Home/Telecommuting

  • Support your employees by communicating regularly and often
  • Identify equipment needs and modifications to their work at home
  • Keep in mind some employees will be constrained in many ways (children at home, lack of equipment) 
  • Try to remain flexible and recognize that normal productivity and scheduling may not be possible
  • While not mandated, some organizations have added flexible arrangements or mental health days to assist at this particularly difficult time
  • If employees need part-time access to facilities, it may be beneficial to have them be present on a rotating basis to minimize contact and the number of persons on-site at a given time. Consider establishing and communicating a schedule widely to ensure alignment.
  • Consider the start and stop of shifts in a staggered approach to reduce the number of people entering or exiting the building (single access points with potential to become a bottleneck) at one time. For example, divide the workforce into groups: 
    • Group 1 enters before 7:30 am
    • Group 2 between 7:30am-8am
    • Group 3 between from 8am-8:30am
    • Group 4 after 8:30am
  • Staggered breaks and lunch times can also help minimize the number of people accessing common areas, if they are unavoidable.

 

Return to Work Checklist – Establishing Your Strategies

KEY POINT: Organizing a return to work is complex and there will be much to plan and do to comply to regulations mandated by your province and industry. In the preparatory phases:

  • Telecommuting/working from home is mandated whenever possible
  • As you prepare, make a list of all items which will be needed
  • Keep in mind supplies needed may be difficult to obtain
  • Build a team to make a plan specific to your business 

This recovery plan may be developed by a crisis unit, a dedicated work team, that brings together members of management, directors, supervisors, human resources advisors and health and safety managers.

    • Set up recurring meetings and communicate regularly to assess the situation as it evolves
    • Obtain and review provincial guidance and any guidance specific to sector of work
    • Establish Health and Safety policies for workers
  • Create a process/form for all workers to state their health, daily and confidentially
  • Your province may mandate that you keep detailed records of all those who were onsite at specific times for contact tracing. We recommend this strongly.
  • Validate the health of all workers daily and confidentially
  • If there is any exposure or illness criteria, a mandatory return to home isolation for 14 days is required
  • Exposure in the workplace obligates immediate mitigation measures, disinfection and tracing measures
  • Designate employee(s) as “Sanitary and Logistics Agent”
  • Create channels of communication with involved partners
    • The planning team
    • Communicating to your employees
  • Create a timeline for return
  • For each site, train and designate Sanitary and Logistics Agents who will be monitoring the measures put in place. There should be a person on-site at all times when employees are present, assigned to monitor the situation and respond to incidents or problems which are identified. That person should be empowered to take all corrective measures including removal of persons or all employees from the workplace in case of danger(s) identified.


Preparing the Workplace

At the site: 

  • An on-site evaluation must be made (we recommend floor plans, photos and/or video walkthroughs to anticipate problem areas)
  • Access must be limited to essential personnel
  • Evaluation of flow of traffic, paying attention to distancing. Access points should be determined
  • Distancing must be maintained at 2 m
  • Reconfigure work areas to maintain 2 m distancing minimum and install barriers where possible (e.g. Plexiglas window or high walled cubicle). 
  • Physical modifications may be needed (e.g. keep certain doors open or adding a hands-free door opener pedal)
  • If unable to keep minimum of 2 m, appropriate equipment must be supplied (masks, gloves, face shields, etc.) and sufficient stock be kept
  • Appropriate clear signage and indications must be planned and installed
  • Use of meeting spaces should be restricted. Video or audio conferencing is preferred and meeting spaces, if needed, must respect 2 m distancing and any maximum occupancy requirements specified in your province
  • Deactivate access to or restrict common areas to a maximum number of people that allows for 2 m distancing. Remove any seating that does not allow for 2 m distancing. Include signage on the door to indicate maximum number of people allowed in a room at a given time.
  • Identify spaces requiring proximity (stairwells, elevators) and determine how to manage the flow of people to maintain distance
  • We recommend that a select group, with the above agents, perform test-runs to assess logistics and safety measures prior to opening


Cleaning and hygiene measures:
 

  • Supply cleaning products at all workstations, communal areas
  • Locations for cleaning products, signs, glove and masks must be determined. Ideally all these should be regularly verified for inventory and restocking
  • Workplace must have sufficient supplies on hand to permit safe work
    • Hand sanitizer (ideally with a non-touch dispenser & refills) 
    • Hand soap
    • Tissues
    • Disinfectant wipes (for surfaces such as tables and desks)
    • Garbage bins with foot-operated lids & garbage bags
  • If there is shared equipment, it must be indicated. Gloves or all necessary supplies to clean shared equipment must be available. We suggest cleaning before and after use of equipment.
  • Bathrooms should be set up to be as non-touch as possible (sink and soap dispenser, etc.).
  • To manage trash safely, add garbage bins in as many places as possible near high-contact points (ideally foot operated or left open if possible to reduce contact with lids)
  • Training of personnel regarding new procedures should be done online if possible, in advance of opening and ideally with periodic reminders.


Communication with your Employees

  • Contact your employees well in advance of return to work. If possible, meet with them individually to talk about new policies, support resources and expected changes in the workplace
  • Confidentially validate who can safely return to work
  • You must be transparent, adaptable and listen to concerns early
  • Remember, good ideas can come from anywhere
  • There will be increased stress and distress
  • Identification of risk/unanticipated problems must be dealt with rapidly
  • Be sensitive to changes in their mental health
  • Consider sending an anonymous survey to identify concerns
  • Ensure managers are well-informed on how to support employees and on the physical and mental health resources available  
  • Develop a structured approach and communication channels to drive ongoing awareness, understanding, commitment and adoption of new policies 
  • Communicate how to flag issues or concerns
  • Re-evaluate employee health and concerns regularly

Source: CRHA Return to Work Guide

 



Preparing Employees

  • Send a company-wide communication laying out your workplace’s return to work plan and the steps taken to keep your organization healthy
  • Provide an in-depth review of what changes employees can expect in the workplace
  • Communicate clear and concise directives/training on how employees are expected to behave (workers to remain 2 m away from each other at all times, cleaning of individual workstations, etc.) 
  • Provide the image below and include it as signage throughout the workplace
  • Remind employees of the risks associated with non-compliance (risk to themselves, their families, their colleagues and their families), as well as the legal obligation 

Behaviours which are essential:

Dialogue - Health Workplace Poster


Employees with Disabilities

Canada has established a COVID-19 Disability Advisory Group to advise on this. From their statement:

“We recognize that some groups of Canadians are significantly and disproportionately impacted by this pandemic, in particular Canadians with disabilities.  For some persons with disabilities, underlying medical conditions put them at greater risk of serious complications related to COVID-19.  Others face discrimination and barriers in accessing information, social services, and health care.  For others, the need for self-isolation and physical distancing create additional challenges.

As we continue to address the COVID-19 outbreak, our priority will remain helping persons with disabilities maintain their health, safety, and dignity.  This includes through more formal communication channels and touch points with the disability community. “

It is important to realize that the barriers above continue to be a problem for access to the workplace at this time. The 2 m social distancing requirement, limited or altered traffic, limited access to equipment, bathrooms or parts of worksites may present additional obstacles. 

Hearing or vision impaired persons may encounter difficulties with signage, instructions and so forth. Personal protective equipment may not be adapted for their use. Instructions and training required to follow protocols may need to be adapted for those with disabilities of any kind, including intellectual disabilities.

We recommend an inclusive approach, taking time to assess the particular risks and accommodations for all individuals, and evaluating each case based upon its unique requirements. We are monitoring the government response and  COVID-19 Disability Advisory Group for more information.

References:
https://www.canada.ca/en/employment-social-development/news/2020/04/statement-by-minister-qualtrough-on-canadas-disability-inclusive-approach-to-its-covid-19-pandemic-response.html

https://www.canada.ca/en/employment-social-development/news/2020/04/backgrounder--covid-19-disability-advisory-group.html

 



Sickness Policies

KEY POINT: Many workplaces and employees feel a need to work despite illness. This culture must change given the reality of COVID-19. Employees must be encouraged to act cautiously and report potential illness, at-risk contacts and any other concerns. 

  • Policies must be posted and communicated widely and regularly and well in advance of return
  • It is important that sickness policies be prioritized and possibly incentivized. Otherwise, people may feel pressure to ‘be well’ and work despite a doubt
  • Each province has different requirements for employee self-monitoring and reporting. Some have websites or paper forms for this purpose.
  • Given the risk to others, there may need to establish repercussions for non-compliance (e.g. warnings or fines for those who do not comply)
  • Consider not limiting sick days for the duration of the pandemic (to encourage employees to stay home if they feel symptoms)
  • On an exceptional basis, do not require a doctor’s note for employees to take sick days (this is very important to avoid people transmitting the virus in clinic and hospital settings)

Unfortunately, experience has taught us that many will not report their illness or exposures for various reasons (e.g. cases of travellers who returned via air to Canada who were actually sick, but fearful of being abandoned in a foreign country, or of not being able to return-to-work on time).

 


 

Particular Situations and Accommodations

While maintaining privacy and avoiding discrimination, special situations should be identified and addressed to support employees.

  • Pregnant employee: may be put off work if unable to work if risk of infection significant, no medical note necessary
  • Care of sick or immunocompromised family member or children at home (daycare or school is closed): may be absent from work and may be eligible for assistance program. An employee is allowed to have 10 sick days per year. Your province may mandate additional accommodations.
  • Return to work of a COVID-19 infected employee: must have isolated for at least 14 days from onset of symptoms, have no fever and not taken any medication to reduce it within 48 hours, have no symptoms, excluding persistent cough, for at least 24 hours. No medical certificate is necessary.
  • Employees at risk – if deemed necessary by authorities that an individual isolates, you must allow employee to stay home
  • Right to refuse – an employee may, with reasonable motive, refuse to present for work. In case of debate, contact your provincial worker safety organization
  • If an employee contracts COVD-19 in the workplace, contact your provincial workers safety organization immediately for advice on mitigation, prevention of spread and steps to take for cleaning, isolation and tracing.

 

Before Travelling To and From Work

Request that employees:

  • Confirm temperature, symptoms and that household contacts are well. 
  • Have all items they need on-hand for travel (bus passes, entry cards etc.) for rapid access with touching as few things as possible
  • Carry hand sanitizer
  • If employees are using public transportation, consider providing them a PPE care package.
Example: A travel kit to reduce exposure
pasted image 0

 

Handwashing

Require thorough handwashing:

  • Upon entering worksite
  • Before and after eating
  • After using washrooms
  • Before and after using shared items
  • Before leaving the premises


Hand sanitizer must be available if no soap/sink available.

For proper handwashing technique, please refer to these instructions.

 


 

Temperature Taking

It is recommended that people take their temperature. Your province may mandate it for workers. Remember that thermometers may be in short supply. Furthermore, “Employee privacy in private sector organizations other than those that qualify as “federal works” is governed by privacy laws in three provinces: Quebec, Alberta and British Columbia. There is no private sector privacy legislation applicable to such employees in the other seven provinces. 

As such, there is no clear statutory privacy-related concerns with respect to implementing and conducting thermal testing in seven Canadian provinces, including Ontario. Even so, as a best practice, and in order to avoid any potential privacy violations at common law, the information obtained through temperature screening should not be collected, recorded, stored, used or disclosed for any purpose aside from determining whether the employee should be permitted to enter the workplace” (Source: Gowling WLG)

The presence of a temperature above 38C or 100.4F should exclude someone from the workplace and indicate a need for them to be medically assessed. It is important to note that symptomatic and asymptomatic carriers can be contagious for days before presenting with fever.

With respect to thermal imaging and scanners, the World Health Organization has stated that “Thermal scanners are effective in detecting people who have a fever (i.e. have a higher than normal body temperature). They cannot detect people who are infected with COVID-19. There are many causes of fever.” Thermal imaging can be part of a comprehensive strategy but is ineffective alone. In fact it can only detect some people with fever. It therefore can add to efforts to identify fever, but it can also make employees feel they do not need to monitor themselves for temperature.

Technical constraints can limit their proper use: “The correct way to use these thermal scanners is to place the subject at a distance of 1-3 cm from the scanning device. If the person being scanned is beyond this distance, the air temperature is also factored in by the device in its reading. This gives a false sense of comfort to the assessors and the people being scanned. This can also be the reason why so many devices are reporting human body temperatures around 88°F or 90°F, much below the actual temperatures” Link

 

 

Testing



COVID diagnostic testing ("do I have the disease?") are presently done with nasopharyngeal swabs through the local Public Health Authorities with all the necessary personal protection.

Serologic testing for SARS-Cov2 antibodies ("did I have the disease?") can be done through blood tests. Health Canada has recently approved serologic tests that detect the antibodies in response to an infection. The tests will play an important role in seroprevalence studies by surveying COVID activity in the Canadian population which will help inform decision makers in targeting intervention and improving workplace safety.

Serologic tests are not used to detect infection. The relationship between antibodies and immunity to infection with SARS-CoV-2 virus associated with COVID19 disease is still unknown. Although the presence of anti-SARS-CoV-2 antibodies likely indicates at least some degree of immunity, these antibodies are present for an undetermined period of time after an infection has ended and it cannot be assumed that individuals with positive antibody test results are protected from future infection.

Hence, for the above-mentioned reasons, individual serologic test interpretation should be done with caution. There is no current evidence supporting their use for diagnosis or for guiding return to the workplace.
We will keep monitoring developments. Canada's COVID-19 Immunity Task Force recently announced it would test one million Canadians' blood samples over the next 2 years to document populational immunity.

For Dialogue patients, COVID-19 testing will remain out of the scope of practice until tests are approved for clinical use by Health Canada and provincial jurisdictions allow their use in the general population.

As we look ahead to the fall, the increased prevalence of COVID-19, the increased testing availability and possibly new point of care screening tests may result in new indications and opportunities to support safe return to new normal. The one thing we do understand about the COVID-19 pandemic, is that best evidence keeps evolving. Our role is to stay abreast of the latest best evidence, best practice and current recommendations so that we can appropriately counsel our patients and clients who bestow their confidence in us, while we look ahead and prepare for the next phase.

We recommend visiting this Health Canada resource regularly for the latest updates regarding the use of tests:
Testing devices for COVID-19: Serological testing devices


 



How to Put on a Mask 

If workers are using masks, instructions should be provided on their proper care and use.

  • Clean your hands with soap and water or hand sanitizer before touching the mask.

  • Remove a mask from the box and make sure there are no obvious tears or holes in either side of the mask.

  • Determine which side of the mask is the top. The side of the mask that has a stiff bendable edge is the top and is meant to mold to the shape of your nose.

  • Determine which side of the mask is the front. The colored side of the mask is usually the front and should face away from you, while the white side touches your face.

  • Follow the instructions below for the type of mask you are using.

    • Face Mask with Ear loops: Hold the mask by the ear loops. Place a loop around each ear.

    • Face Mask with Ties: Bring the mask to your nose level and place the ties over the crown of your head and secure with a bow.

    • Face Mask with Bands: Hold the mask in your hand with the nosepiece or top of the mask at fingertips, allowing the headbands to hang freely below hands. Bring the mask to your nose level and pull the top strap over your head so that it rests over the crown of your head.  Pull the bottom strap over your head so that it rests at the nape of your neck.

  • Mold or pinch the stiff edge to the shape of your nose.

  • If using a face mask with ties: Then take the bottom ties, one in each hand, and secure with a bow at the nape of your neck.

  • Pull the bottom of the mask over your mouth and chin

References:

When and how to use masks
How to wear a medical mask safely

 


Learn more about the use of masks and
protective personal equipment

Watch our expert video

Dialogue_covid-19_expert_series

 

Entry and Exit and Movement

  • We recommend a safety agent monitor entry points ensuring that a health screening questionnaire is filled (and if necessary, refuse entry), employee washes hands or uses hand sanitizer
  • There should be signage with reminders for social distancing, handwashing, mask and all other procedures to follow
  • Install mirrors for blind corners may assist with distancing
  • Areas where social distancing cannot be maintained should be indicated
  • Establish door for entry and one for exit, and provide signage

 


 

Directing Travel Within Building

  • Signage to indicate the direction of flow people should follow
  • Include 2 m marking where appropriate to assist effort, especially in areas where people may have to queue

 


 

Signage Requirements 

  • Reminder to fill out health questionnaire 
  • Sickness policy
  • Rules for social distancing
  • 2 m markings on floor where appropriate
  • Etiquette: handwashing, sneezing, etc
  • Maximum number of people allowed in certain rooms, and elevators
  • Cleaning instructions (workstation, commonly used surfaces, etc.)

Access our COVID-19 signage toolkit here.


 

High-Frequency Contact Surfaces

  • Identify all high-frequency contact points (door handles, light switches, accessibility buttons/push plates, elevator buttons, security pass/code access points, time/punch clocks, washrooms, kitchen areas, etc.)
  • Ensure there is a frequent cleaning process in place as per norms mandated by your province or more stringently.
  • Ideally have automatic or foot-operated doors or keep them open if possible
  • Encourage all employees to identify common surfaces you have not anticipated and report them

 

Washroom Setup

  • If possible, have a non-touch system: automatic flushing, soap dispensers, faucet, hand dryer or paper towel dispenser, garbage with foot control (kept close to exit door so that paper towel can be used to open door and then disposed of)
  • Clean at least twice per shift, more often if customers use space or as mandated by your province.
  • If a patient has been unwell in a bathroom, or there is a biological spill or plumbing incident, advise the site’s sanitary agent immediately for action to be taken including closing of the bathroom for cleaning and disinfection. 

 

Washroom Etiquette

  • One person at a time
  • Provide signage to indicate when bathroom is occupied before entering and requirement to keep a distance to allow for occupant to leave while maintaining a 2 m distance
  • Mark area on floor for people to wait at a safe distance if washroom is occupied
  • Although not mandated, one recommendation is to clean contact surfaces in the bathroom with disinfectant wipe, including all contacted surfaces
  • Bathroom flush knob
  • Sink taps and paper dispensers if these are not automatic
This can be done before and again, after use. This double cleaning method makes everyone responsible and provides added measures of safety.  Refer to this federal resource.

 

Small or Single Access Locations

  • Identify spaces requiring proximity (stairwells, elevators, etc.) and establish a way to manage the flow of people to maintain distance
  • Include signage to explain any protocol and limits in number of people (e.g. limiting the number in an elevator car to 2-3 people)
  • Practical Idea: Use Slack, Teams channel or other electronic means to manage access to limited spaces which present a danger on entry and exit
  • Post sign-in and sign-out sheet to track number of people in a room or common area if there is no window is available to see how many are already present

 

Workstations

  • Avoid transfer of equipment from home to workplace.
  • Request that employees clean their station and commonly used tools regularly, and issue frequent reminders. 
  • Provide the necessary cleaning products and wipes, and instructions

 

Phones

  • Disinfect regularly, especially on entry/exit
  • For mobile phones, encourage use of Bluetooth headsets to avoid touching phones
  • Remember that phones are touched constantly, placed in pockets, close to the face and more. Phones represent a major danger of cross contamination. 


Pens, Pencils and Stylus Pens

  • Should be given for single user usage (avoids sharing, can be used to press buttons)
  • A lanyard or pocket device will help prevent sharing of these.

 

Shared Devices (e.g. printer)

  • As much as possible, avoid the use of shared devices. Otherwise, establish a protocol to clean them with signage and supplies near the device.
  • Clean before and after of device 
  • Employees must wash hands before and after using the device
  • Clean before and after every shift

 

Communal Spaces

  • Restrict access of common areas to a maximum number of people, and remove any seating that does not allow for 2 m distancing. 
  • Include signage on the door to indicate maximum number of people allowed in a room at a given time.
  • Provide cleaning products and post cleaning procedures 
  • Ban use of communal closets
  • Verify correct functioning of ventilation and Improve it if necessary
  • Cafeterias: prolong opening hours to reduce congestion, mark allowed seating areas. Stagger utilization times whenever possible
  • If employee becomes ill, vacate premises, air out for three hours then clean
  • Clean before and after every shift

 

Eating in the Workplace

  • Encourage workers to bring their own utensils, mugs and water bottles to avoid use of shared items 
  • Avoid sharing of food and drinks
  • Encourage eating at desk – bring food from home or pick up before coming to work to avoid more entry/exit contamination.
  • Encourage people to use thermal mugs to avoid going to “water cooler” or coffee machine.
  • Microwave at the desk if space available

 

Promoting a Clean and Hygienic Workplace

  • Encourage employees to regularly wipe down surfaces (e.g. desks and tables) and objects (e.g. telephones, keyboards) with disinfectant (idea: place a calendar hold as a reminder to all)
  • Try to ensure that everyone within the workplace has access to places where they can wash their hands with soap and water; use hand sanitizer dispensers where running water isn’t available
  • Make tissues available throughout the workplace for anyone who develops a runny nose or cough, as well as closed, foot-operated garbage bins to hygienically dispose of them
    • Promote the use of facial tissues when coughing and proper disposal using this poster from the World Health Organization
  • Place tissues and foot-operated garbage bins near doors to encourage the use of tissues to open/close doors
  • Create a protocol for frequent cleaning (several times daily) of common space surfaces (e.g., kitchens, meeting rooms). Delegate and coordinate the cleaning with trained personnel. 
  • Consider hiring specialized cleaning services or in addition to usual measures. 
  • Restock hand sanitizer and cleaning products frequently. An empty hand-operated sanitizer dispenser becomes a common contact point and without sanitizer, can actually spread germs

 

Cleaning High Contact Surfaces

As the coronavirus can live on surfaces for a certain amount of time, it is imperative that high contact surfaces are cleaned often and thoroughly. 

For advice on how to disinfect surfaces, please consult this resource.

 


 

Cleaning Products

For examples of products with demonstrated effectiveness against SARS-CoV-2, please refer to the Government of Canada’s list.


 

Dealing with Customers, Packages, Suppliers and Visits

  • Have cleaning procedure and materials in place
  • Install Plexiglas if unable to ensure 2 meters distance
  • Visits must be limited to essential persons and assessment of their health and exposures must be documented. Remember that those working in multiple sites or who have been in the healthcare domain pose a particular risk. 
  • Avoid taking returns on products. If necessary, have dedicated space for this and disinfect or quarantine for at least 24 hours
  • Have separate space and entry/exit for delivery and order preparation

 

Work-Related Travel

  • Vehicle occupancy presents obvious challenges.
  • Keep vehicles to single users whenever possible. 
  • In Quebec, the CNESST advises reducing vehicle occupancy by 50%, maintaining 2-meter distance, and limit carpooling with people outside immediate household. Your province may vary. 
  • No travel out of the country is permitted at present

There is great potential for danger associated with travel to and from multiple sites, customer sites etc., particularly in sectors of healthcare.


 

Penalties and Non-Compliance

There may be severe penalties for non-compliance. For example in Quebec, the CNESST advises that: 

  • A person or business who contravenes the Act respecting occupational health and safety is liable to criminal sanctions, depending on whether it is a first offense or a repeat offense:
    • fine of $600 to $6,000 for a natural person;
    • fine of $1,500 to $12,000 for a legal person.
  • If a person or a company compromises the health, safety or physical well-being of a worker, he is also liable to criminal sanctions, depending on whether it is a first offense or a repeat offense :
    • fine of $1,500 to $12,000 for a natural person
    • fine of $15,000 to $300,000 for a legal person

Source: CRHA Return to Work Guide

  • Post a notice reminding employees of the need for their collaboration from a legal and health standpoint
  • Consider establishing disciplinary measures for non-compliance
  • Provide communication channel for employees to help identify and any risks or hazards or give suggestions

 

Increases and Reductions in Services

It is to be anticipated that your business may experience increases or reduction in demand for goods or services. Equally, your business partners and suppliers will be affected.

This may affect your access to PPE, cleaning products, signage and other needed supplies for reopening

Source:

CRHA Return to Work Guide


 

How Can Dialogue Help

1. Medical assessments

Dialogue can perform a thorough medical assessment to any patient presenting symptoms to identify potential risk factors known to be linked to COVID-19 (as specified by Federal and Provincial screening protocols).

Suspected cases will be directed to the appropriate health authority. Our care team is equipped to provide information to our patients in case of a suspected infection. The informational kit includes number to call, appropriate testing sites, preventative measures to avoid spreading the potential virus).


2. Mental health services

Our medical team at Dialogue has developed a guide to coping with anxiety and stress during COVID-19. Dialogue also offers clients and members access to mental health support through a Stress Management and Well-Being add-on program, as well as basic services in the core offering.


3. Chloe for COVID-19

Dialogue has also developed a virtual medical assistant to address COVID-19 related questions Canadians may have in regard to symptoms, testing centers, and more. In addition to an FAQ vetted daily by a medical committee, this free service offers the latest information from federal, provincial and territorial health authorities as the official response to the COVID-19 outbreak continues to develop.


4. Daily health check-in

We've added a daily check-in feature within the Chloe for COVID-19 app for those who have or are experiencing symptoms or are self-isolating. If you choose to opt-in, you’ll receive an SMS every day with a link to a series of questions to see how you’re doing, and report on any changes in your symptoms, so Chloe can evaluate your general health, and to provide recommendations on how to manage symptoms or next steps to take if needed. 


5. Test center locator

We also added a test centre locator for your convenience. If you need to get tested, this new feature within the Chloe for COVID-19 enables you to find a test centre near you, as well as get their hours of operation and how to contact them to make an appointment.

 


Please review Dialogue’s policy regarding sick notes:

As expected, the COVID-19 pandemic is creating an unprecedented surge of demand for our clinical services and a significant part of this demand relates to requests for medical notes to document absence, self-isolation or fitness to return to work.

While patients have understandable economic need for this documentation, that need is driven by their employer policies, not illness. And at a time when we are going to be increasingly scarce and in short supply, we simply cannot devote time to administrative tasks that are required for clinical care.

Also note that it is Dialogue's long-standing policy that we only provide medical notes that form part of the plan of treatment for a medical problem that we have assessed. We have never supported clinicians providing medical notes for patients' medical problems that are managed by a primary care provider or specialist.